Odds are MS may have to come up with something big to retain their lead in the console wars. Halo 3 and big titles like it (along with a heavily rumored new 360 with some new bells and whistles) will certainly help, but potentially, they already have their biggest weapon if marketed properly, and all because Nintendo and Sony have chosen to ignore this rather lucrative idea for some insane reason. What am I referring to? Look at my gamercard. See that little number that has been ever so slowly going up since I got my 360? For those not in the know, that's referred to as a "gamerscore". Every 360 title has "achievements" which are worth varying amounts of points. Some are fairly easy, such as completing a level of a game on any difficulty, and others are truly hardcore, like getting 10,000 kills online in Gears of War. What are these points good towards, you ask? Absolutely nothing relevant. But then why do they matter? Simply put, they are gamer cred. Despite the different approaches by the three companies, each seems to agree that gaming is becoming more and more of a community thing, and what better way to let other players know exactly what type of gamer you are than a number that represents your level of achievement.
The more casual may scoff at this, after all, it's just a game, but the real gamer crowd relishes this kind of stuff and as someone who is definitely a little more laid back about this than your average hardcore nerd, it's incredibly addicting and infectious. I don't beat hidden bosses, I don't spend 50 extra hours to get the "best" ending, but I feel one hell of a buzz when I see that "achievement unlocked" symbol flash across my screen, and I miss it not ever showing up when I'm playing my other systems. It makes me want to if not get as many achievements in one game as possible, at least rent every possible game in order to rack that score up.
The thing is, this is not something Microsoft has actually made that big of a deal out of, and I think that's a huge mistake. This is one thing they can truly claim as their own, something at this point only an owner of the 360 can proudly proclaim, and aside from babble from internet geeks, you don't really hear anything about it. If Microsoft really stepped up and made gamerscore and achievements a major part of their marketing, that could easily be the edge they need to stay on top. I mean after all, people usually brag about how good they are at certain games, what better way to prove it than simply point at your gamerscore?
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